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Selma

PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:20 pm
by Hugh Weldon
The only publicity I'd seen for this were the posters on the tube plastered with ecstatic five star reviews, otherwise I went into it open minded thinking it was a full MLK biopic. In fact it focuses on a relatively short period in King's career surrounding the march from Selma to Montgomery in support of black voter registration. It is a disappointment.

Not because it's a bad film, in its own terms it succeeds very well with good performances, a well structured if rather contrived script, and well delivered emotional punches. But I was a little wary when I noticed the hand of Oprah upon it not only as a producer but acting in a secondary role.

It is just that it's almost completely lacking in any depth, and with performance from David Oyelowo in the central role which, while convincing, fails to capture much of King's struggle, seriousness, dignity or faith. The meetings between MLK and LBJ for example are simplified into a conflict for dramatic purposes that fails to give any sense of the complexity of the characters or the situation.

It says a lot about the film that it only really comes to life when it intercuts actual documentary footage of the march, which has more impact for about two minutes than any of the calculated shocks of the re-creations. It's worth a look, it tells the story, but if you're interested in seeing any real politics, or any serious attempt to present King's struggle, avoid, and seek out the documentary material instead. It made me want to see Denzel Washington as Malcolm X again which I haven't seen for a long time but recall as being a much more successful history lesson and a much better film.

Re: Selma

PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 1:49 pm
by NormanD
Ta for the review, Hugh. It sounds very much like the usual mythologising process that happens to popular leaders whose lives have been cut short. But one that occurs forty or fifty years after, when the establishment no longer sees them as a threat and effectively rewrites their lives by presenting their politics and actions as a reflection on 'the times', rather than as a lesson for the present.

I haven't seen the Malcolm X biopic for years, either. It struck me at the time that the ending - the postscript - had been tagged on in order to provide a safe message: shots of Afro-American schoolkids learning their history, Malcom X Avenue signs, even Nelson Mandela offering words of praise. The rest of Spike Lee's film was a bit of a long haul - Malcolm's ghosted autobiography was a lot more exciting.

Re: Selma

PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:35 pm
by john poole
I saw a preview screening on MLK Day, which was spoiled a little for me by an unscheduled interruption caused by a fire alarm. I am not usually a fan of biopics, thinking that I would rather have watched a documentary; and so I thought that Selma gained by focussing on a specific period rather than his full life. I liked the film a lot more than Hugh - good performances, certainly a better film than some of the other Oscar nominations I have seen (although it will not win) and I thought superior to last year's 12 Years a Slave, but I agree that the documentary footage towards the end stood out.

Re: Selma

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:08 am
by uiwangmike
The film is yet to come my way, but I was interested to hear that the script wasn't able to include any of King's actual words, since Dreamworks has the copyright on them.

Re: Selma

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:24 am
by NormanD
Wehaveadreamworks.

Re: Selma

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:49 am
by Garth Cartwright
Saw it tonight. Not the masterpiece the 5 star reviews are suggesting but not bad. The flaws - as Hugh noted the scenes between LBJ and MLK are conceived to add dramatic push but are, according to US historians, almost entirely fictional. Malcolm X appears briefly then vanishes -did he meet MLK in Selma? I have no idea. The student movement that is scene chaffing with MLK's nonviolence needs more coverage - in the sense of a more radical black politics that was taking shape. The overuse of muzak to add emotion when it is not needed (conversations on the march and you hear heavy piano chords and strings building). But I did think it was vastly superior to Spike Lee's Malcolm X which was a very poor biopic. And liked the fact that it focused on one specific historic campaign. Well played if perhaps a little mannered - I was never convinced by the actor playing MLK, he tried hard but lacked gravitas. The actor who did James Brown caught more of the character (but perhaps an easier role?). The friend I went along with found it overlong but he doesn't share my interest in the US. I did leave the cinema once again in awe of MLK's bravery and the huge sacrifice he was making in every area of his life. Made me think of how the struggle for civil rights continues in many places - not least the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Not that many Americans will want to make that comparison.